What Does DFA Mean in Baseball? – Answered with Details


Written by

Michael Rogers



Leo Hagenes

what does dfa mean in baseball

For many avid baseball fans, following baseball is more than just watching the games on the field. There is more going on with their favorite players, including transactions. And one of the familiar terms you should know about is the DFA abbreviation.

For your information, DFA is short for Designate for Assignment, a contractual term in MLB. But, what does DFA mean in baseball? Read our detailed explanation below.

DFA Baseball Term Definition


1. 40-man roster

The 26-man and 40-man rosters are important pieces of information that we should first be aware of because the latter will be directly related to the Designate for Assignment (DFA).

The 26-man roster, also known as the active roster in Major League Baseball, is made up of the team’s 26 active players. The 40-man roster, on the other hand, is the expanded size and consists of 40 players who are contracted to a club for the major league.

One thing to know about the 40-man roster is this expanded list contains all 26 active players of the club. Players who are absent due to injury for 7, 10, or 15 days are also included. The 40-man roster may contain some players who are on a list of absences due to paternity leave or a family medical emergency, or bereavement.

2. DFA meaning

When a baseball player is assigned to a team that belongs to a big league baseball club, he gets on their roster list.

As mentioned above, DFA stands for Designate for Assignment. And when a certain MLB player’s contract with his big league club is DFA, he is being removed from the 40-man roster list of the club.

But that’s not the end of it; there are certain rules about the responsibility of the club and various scenarios after they designate a player for assignment.

3. Rules of DFA

So, how does Designated For Assignment work?

When a player’s contract with a major league club is DFA, the club must take one of the following actions within seven days:

  • Bring him back to their 40-man roster list.

After designating a player for assignment, the club retains the option to return him to the team within 7 days.

  • Place him on waivers.

Other teams in the league may claim the player if he is placed on waivers.

  • Outright the player from the 40-man roster.

After being DFA, if no teams place him on waivers, meaning he clears waivers, he can be assigned to the club’s minor league team (in case he has remaining minor league options).

Furthermore, if the player has a 10-year contract with his present team and has been with them for 5 years or more, the club must get his permission to bring him to the minor league. Regardless of whether he agrees to reassignment, the club must pay him according to the conditions of the contract.

  • Trade the player to another club.

Another contractual move for the player after DFA is being traded to a different club. The 5-year or more rule of a 10-year contract with Major League Baseball also applies here, as he cannot be traded to another team without his consent.

  • Release the player, making him become a free-agent.

When a baseball player is released from the club and has no team with which to be traded or a waiver, he becomes a free agent.

Purposes MLB Designate for Assignment


A major league club will commonly DFA a player in order to replace him with a more promising, better talent to add to their 40-man roster. The substitute player could either be:

  • A player on the club’s 60-day injury list
  • A newly acquired talent
  • A minor league player

How Does Designated for Assignment Work?

To summarize, as soon as the decision to DFA a player is made, said player is no longer considered a part of the 40-roster. Instead, the club can place him on waivers, outright, trade, or release him. Should the team rescind the DFA decision and take the player back, it must be made within 7 days.



What is the difference between designated for assignment vs released?

When a player confronts unconditional release, the contract between the player and the club is terminated, relieving both parties from any obligations. There are two possibilities afterward: he is waived by other clubs or becomes a free agent.

When a player is designated for assignment, he can be claimed back by the team, outrighted to the minor league, or traded to another club. However, the present club will still have contractual obligations to him because he must be paid according to the terms of the contract.

What happens when an MLB player is released?

When a player gets released by his MLB team, he can sign with any of the remaining 29 MLB teams or be returned to his previous one. The club that let him go will pay him his entire salary minus the amount the new team will pay him.

What is the difference between DFA and optioned?

When a player is optioned, he is removed from a major league team’s 40-man roster and assigned to a minor league team.

Meanwhile, suppose a player is designated for assignment and forced to play for the minor league. In that case, he can refuse the offer if he has played for the team for more than 5 years or has previously been designated.

For your information, a team can only outright a player to the minor league via DFA once in his career without considering his decision.

What is a MLB DFA tracker?

You can keep up with the most recent MLB DFA list to find out what your favorite players’ contract conditions are by visiting this website.


Indeed, most of the rules are created to protect the rights of both the club and the players while ensuring both parties fulfill their obligations. Now that you know the full answer and all the interesting details about the question “What does DFA mean in baseball?”, you can explain the term to other avid baseball fans.

Feel free to share our article to further discuss the term with others!

Read more other baseball terms:

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